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Area youths explore possible career paths

Tuesday and Wednesday, teenagers in Luverne, Highland Home and Brantley spent most of the day away from school and in area businesses taking part in the Groundhog Day Shadowing Program.

The program is sponsored by Lurleen B. Wallace Community College and is designed to allow students a chance to work in a variety of different occupations. Across area communities, students shadowed nurses, doctors, teachers, retail workers and employees from a wide variety of professions in order to learn more about the jobs they do and, if the field interests them enough, to pursue it as a career.

For 10 such seniors at Luverne High School, Wednesday marked an end to their four-year odyssey with Pat Davis, a registered nurse who resides over Healthcare Technology.

Davis called the group her 'shining stars.'

"This group of girls I'm really going to miss," she said. "They've been with me for awhile and I know that in whatever career they choose they'll be successful."

All of the seniors are taking college preparatory classes at LHS. Throughout their high school career they've gravitated towards courses such as biology, anatomy, physiology, even physics and advanced math courses, all to prepare them to make the leap into a health-related occupation, either as nurses, doctors or other specialized medical technicians.

They're also award winners, traveling each year for competition in Monroeville where they've frequently bought home medals.

They spent early Wednesday in various medical facilities throughout Crenshaw County, enhancing their knowledge of the field and assisting local physicians and nurses with their day-to-day duties.

Both Caroline Knox's and classmate Jessica Oswald's mothers are registered nurses.

"My mother was a nurse and that's what made me want to be a nurse," Oswald said. "Growing up that's all I wanted to be. Now I just want to work in the medical field."

Knox, too, wants to follow her mother into nursing.

And one of the reasons is economic.

"If you become a nurse almost any hospital will pay for your last few years of nursing school if you sign a contract with them," said Knox, who plans on attending either Auburn University or Troy University. "Miss Pat has really helped us also, by showing us what jobs come open each year and what we can expect as far as salary goes."

Angela Lewis spent her Wednesday in Brantley at the town clinic with Nurse Susan Thompkins. While attracted to medicine, Lewis is leaning towards studying psychiatry in college and hopes to be a licensed psychiatrist.

"Last year I spent time in the emergency room and operating room, which was real interesting," she said. "I hope to get my doctorate in psychiatry though."

While a number of the girls aim for a career in medicine, (each are CPR certified as well), some hope to be teachers.

Areka Smith hopes to teach grade school.

"I love kids," she said. "And I love being around them. I would like to be a kindergarten or first grade teacher."

Not just content with one day of jobshadowing, some volunteer and help the school nurse during the year while others help teachers work with those students who have learning problems.

"It's really rewarding," said Cody McLeod, who helps tutor students with learning disabilities. "We have the special reading class – they're not special education, but they're way behind with their reading level. I started helping a class that had 25 students and now we have 10. 15 of them moved up to a higher reading level so it feels good to help."

Spending time around younger children also allows the girls a chance to see firsthand how unfortunate others lives are.

"There are some who have to wear the same set of clothes two days in a row," said McLeod. "Just anything you can do to help them makes them feel good. If you help them with their homework it makes them really feel like they can make something of their lives. And that always makes you feel good."

It appears that the majority of the group will head into either the health or teaching field. But like many high school seniors, with so many opportunities available, Knox admits she has other interests.

"This year I've went from wanting to go into fashion merchandising to agricultural economics to agricultural marketing," she said. "It's crazy."

Smith said she's bounced around from career choice to career choice as well this year.

"I went from wanting to be a psychiatrist to a teacher to a lawyer," she said. "Now, I'm back to a teacher."